Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the troops at Adazi Military Base in Kadaga, Latvia, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canadian troops test positive for COVID-19 in Latvia and Kuwait

Canadian troops test positive for COVID-19 in Latvia and Kuwait

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in Latvia, where an unspecified number of troops have tested positive for the illness while guarding against Russian aggression in the region.

The Department of National Defence confirmed on Tuesday that military personnel at Camp Adazi near the Latvian capital of Riga have contracted COVID-19, though it would not provide specific numbers.

“The Canadian Armed Forces have some members deployed on Operation Reassurance in Latvia (who) have tested positive for COVID-19,” Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a statement.

“For operational security reasons, specific numbers of affected members will not be released.”

Canada has 540 soldiers in Latvia, where the Canadian military has been leading a NATO battlegroup that includes troops from nine other countries as a check against Russian incursions into eastern Europe and the Baltics.

Media reports have indicated that troops from some of those other countries have also tested positive for COVID-19, and that NATO and Latvian officials were scrambling to contain the outbreak.

Britain, Germany and the United States are leading similar battlegroups in neighbouring Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, all of which were established after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

The Canadian Armed Forces reported Tuesday that 732 military members have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March, an increase of 56 since last week.

Thirty-two still had the illness, more than double the 15 that were reported last week.

The current contingent of soldiers in Latvia arrived in July only after their plane turned back in midair because of concerns the troops might have been exposed to COVID-19 before leaving Canada.

While such deployments are often six months long, Le Bouthillier said Ottawa and Riga are in discussions about when the group can return home and be replaced by a new contingent.

He suggested any decision would remain secret due to security concerns, even though such rotations have been publicly revealed in the past.

The infections in Latvia follow an outbreak among Canadian military personnel in Kuwait at the beginning of December. Canada has hundreds of troops in the Middle East participating in the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

All infected troops in Latvia are in isolation, Le Bouthillier said, while contact-tracing efforts are underway to limit the spread of the disease.

Latvia’s ambassador to Canada would not reveal the extent of the outbreak but said the situation “is and was under control” after his government set up a rapid-testing facility at Camp Adazi and imposed other measures to prevent further infections.

He also downplayed any threat to the integrity and combat capability of the battlegroup.

“The health-protection measures aim to preserve the combat power and readiness of NATO’s (battlegroup) in Latvia, which has not been affected since the pandemic,” Karlis Eihenbaums said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“Soldiers are following Latvian government regulations and the Canadian Armed Forces preventative measures, and also the Camp Adazi restrictions to reduce any potential risks to contract COVID-19.”

Latvia, like many countries, has seen a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with more than 1,800 reported on Dec. 31, the highest daily total so far. More than 500 new infections were reported on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Military

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US Vice-President Joe Biden walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. If Joe Biden’s decision to kill off Keystone XL is supposed to sound the death knell for Canada-U.S. relations, you wouldn’t know it from the newly minted president’s call sheet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
In wake of decision to kill Keystone XL, Biden’s first foreign-leader call? Trudeau

Biden rescinded former president Donald Trump’s approval of the US$8-billion cross-border pipeline expansion

Protesting farmers and their families gather around a bonfire to mark the harvest festival, which is called Lohri, on a blocked highway in protest against new farm laws on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Changes in India’s farm laws could potentially open up one of the world’s most populous markets and are being closely watched by Canada’s agricultural and economic sectors, say experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Altaf Qadri
Changes in Indian farm laws could benefit Canada, experts say

Independent committee of experts to negotiate with opponents of legislation

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
CFIB raises estimate of small businesses at risk of closing permanently

One in six Canadian small business owners seriously contemplating shutting down

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is now on the path to grant degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Lithuania offers to replace Belarus as hockey worlds co-host

Tournament scheduled to run May 21 to June 6

Canadian international midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, left, is seen in action against St. Louis FC in an undated handout photo. Gagnon-Lapare has joined HFX Wanderers FC on a two-year deal with a club option for 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-HFX Wanderers FC
Canadian international Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare joins CPL’s HFX Wanderers FC

Gagnon-Lapare most recently with Ottawa Fury FC and St. Louis FC

An Italian police officer stands by a copy of the “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci, in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Italian police have recovered a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century “Salvator Mundi” painting of Jesus Christ that was stolen from a Naples church without the priests even realizing it was gone. The discovery was made over the weekend when Naples police working on a bigger operation found the painting hidden in an apartment. Police chief Alfredo Fabbrocini said the owner offered a “less than credible” explanation that he had “casually” bought it at a small market. (Italian Police via AP)
Italian police find stolen copy of Leonardo ‘Salvator Mundi’

500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci painting

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Inauguration fashion: Purple, pearls, American designers

Joe Biden wore navy blue suit and overcoat by Ralph Lauren

Adam Hadwin, of Canada, chips to the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Japan's Yuto Totsuka competes during the men's World Cup freestyle halfpipe snowboard event in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary runs out of runway to host world freestyle, snowboard championships

Calgary runs out of runway to host world freestyle, snowboard championships

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) celebrates his goal during extra time MLS playoff soccer action against the D.C. United, in Toronto on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Osorio says a lot has changed with the Canadian national team since he first came to camp in 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Jonathan Osorio upbeat about what lies ahead for Canadian men’s soccer team

Jonathan Osorio upbeat about what lies ahead for Canadian men’s soccer team

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, centre, celebrates his goal with teammates during second period NHL hockey action against the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Just three games into a condensed season, the Calgary Flames are already on a break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

Most Read